The CHR’s Flagship fellowship programme for early career scholars is at the heart of a deep commitment to transforming higher education at the doctoral level in South Africa.
Looking towards a changed future, we would like to highlight the first-rate research of past and current DSI-NRF Early Career Doctoral Fellows. These emerging scholars are selected through a highly competitive process and represent some of the best students in the humanities at UWC. At the CHR, Early Career Fellows are placed into a reading and mentoring programme that introduces them to contemporary debates in the global humanities and encourages dissertations that explore question of interdisciplinarity, aesthetic and political theory, arts practice, and rigorous theoretical study. They are a cohort of scholars and artists in South Africa on a path to becoming experts within their fields of study as they pursue academic careers in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Dr Fernanda Pinto de Almeida (History)
Dr Fernanda Pinto de Almeida’s doctoral dissertation offered an analysis of the space and infrastructure of cinema houses, or “bioscopes,” in twentieth-century Cape Town. Mapping the historical formations of cinema audiences from the Union’s control in the 1910s to the end of Apartheid’s Separate Amenities in the late 1980s, the dissertation examined how cinemas promoted a collective form of experience that eschewed both segregationist and liberal policies. Dr de Almeida specifically asks: how did cinema forge audiences and political sentiment by mobilizing the senses? How was the public threat posed by early film halls seemingly appeased by the suburban multiplex? Dr de Almeida suggests that cinemas eluded spatial boundaries by attracting audiences across racial “communities” and redefining public reception of mass media. Showing how cinemas were implicated in Cape Town’s racial geography and the city’s incipient public sphere, she argues that the cinema represented both racial arrest and a potential for political change. Dr de Almeida is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the CHR.
- Dissertation: Making Sense of the Bioscope: The Experience of Cinemas in Twentieth Century Cape Town
- Supervisor: Prof. Premesh Lalu
Dr Aidan Erasmus (History)
In his dissertation, Dr Erasmus invested in constituting sound as a modality through which to think the resonant contours of imperial war, through the examination of aesthetic production in music, radio and cinema under apartheid and in the postapartheid. As part of the CHR, Dr Erasmus participated in a global exchange programme with Sogang University in South Korea and was awarded writing fellowships at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) at the University of Minnesota and the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto. He is currently appointed as a contract lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape, where he teaches on the first-year and honours programme and co-supervises several postgraduate students. Dr Erasmus has published in local and international journals, as well as in an edited volume produced through the Centre for Humanities Research. As a fellow, Dr Erasmus was invited to co-convene one of the annual winter schools on the theme of Technology and the Human.
- Dissertation: The Sound of War: Apartheid, Audibility, and Resonance
- Supervisor: Prof. Premesh Lalu
Reza Khota (History)
Reza Khota was appointed as an artist in residence in jazz in 2016 in the Flagship’s Factory of the Arts. A jazz guitarist, Khota’s public experimental performances in cross-disciplinary improvisation with visual artist Dathini Mzayiya were the subject of a major research article by sound scholar John Mowitt in the Oxford Journal of Sound Studies. In 2018, Khota was invited to visit, perform, and offer masterclasses at the Music Department at the University of Toronto as part of the Flagship’s collaborative partnership with the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto. Khota’s participation in the CHR’s artists’ forum, winter school, and seminars led to his decision to pursue a research PhD in History on archives of African guitar and will drive the new music program of the Factory of the Arts at Greatmore.
- Dissertation: Tonalities: Reframing Histories of African Guitar Music
- Supervisor: Premesh Lalu
Sibongile Khumalo (Women’s and Gender Studies)
Sibongile Khumalo was awarded an Early Career Fellowship with the Flagship to pursue her doctoral research on women, feminist ecology, and African futures from a posthuman perspective. Khumalo was previously awarded a Masters fellowship with the Flagship for her MA research (English) in eco-criticism and ecological aesthetics in the literary works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Khumalo’s findings in her MA opened pathways to an exploration of posthuman futures through the lens of Gender and Queer theory. With Khumalo’s move to the Women’s and Gender Studies department for her PhD, she sets out to deepen her inquiry into posthuman futures with a close focus on the evolution of gender, sex, and sexuality in the face of digital technologies. Khumalo also has a keen interest in the production of film and photography, especially as it depicts Black queer and trans woman bodies.
- Dissertation: Queer Black Women in Theatre
- Supervisor: Prof. Jane Taylor
Dr Valmont Layne
As an NRF Early Career Fellow and PhD Candidate at the Flagship project of the CHR, Dr Layne worked with questions of social transformation and justice mediated through cultural space, including research, curating, collecting, and advocacy. His work has been located at different sites – on museum practice and social justice as former director of the District Six Museum, with curating “transformation” at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, and with arts and rights-based research and policy advocacy at Arterial Network. Dr Layne is currently a Next Generation Scholar at the CHR, where his research interests include music, sound studies, archives and heritage studies, and histories of technology. He has also been integrally involved in a major UWC project on reimagining archives of the liberation struggles held at UWC. Dr Layne participated in the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes African Studies Summer Institute held at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia in 2019.
- Dissertation: Goema’s Refrain: Sonic anticipation and the Musicking Cape.
- Supervisor: Prof. Premesh Lalu
Dr Emma Minkley
Dr Minkley’s research is interested in the connections that can be made when history relocates itself within the realm of art, and conversely, when art takes on history as its medium. Her broader inquiries include performativity, play, and the relation between objects and subjects. Dr Minkley’s dissertation focused on the “hand” as it appears variously in the production, performance, and reception of puppetry. Taking the archive of the Handspring Puppet Company as its starting point or medium, the project explores the theorisation of the hand as an object of thought and artmaking. The crucial function of the hand to the puppeteer opens onto larger questions about the human’s relation to technology, money, and politics. The study thus initiates a set of dialectical connections between body and mind, intuition and intellect, practice and theory, each centred on the relationship between the hand and the head. Dr Minkley’s study further serves as an investigation and documentation of Handspring Puppet Company’s work and its influence on the genre of “puppetry for adults” in South Africa and globally, especially as it engages with localised stories and puppetry-making practices in colonial and post-colonial contexts.
- Dissertation: The Hand and the Head: The Handspring Puppet Company and the Arts Archive
- Supervisors: Prof. Premesh Lalu and Prof. Jane Taylor
Phokeng Setai (Anthropology)
Phokeng Setai’s research interests lie within the domain of creative arts, particularly the visual arts. He obtained his Master’s degree in Sociology at the University of the Free State under a program called “The Narrative Study of Lives.” Setai’s doctoral research looks at the emergence of artistic collectives and the modes of production within this collaborative dynamic. Setai is also fascinated with questions around the aesthetics of experimentation within self-organized spaces and the creative products that materialize when artists, curators, and other practitioners come together outside of predetermined structures, definitions, contexts, or forms. In May 2019, he participated in a curatorial intensive residency program with the Raw Material Company in Dakar, Senegal. Setai was hosted by the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto in 2018.
- Dissertation: Evolution of Curatorial Practice on the Continent of Africa: A Lens into Contemporary Black African Curatorial Strategies
- Supervisor: Prof. Jane Taylor and Assoc. Prof. Kelly Gillespie
Zuko Sikhafungana (Anthropology)
Sikhafungana began his affiliation with the Flagship as an honours fellow. He is a theatre maker, playwright, director, and filmmaker, and cofounder and artistic director of Back Stage Theatre Production (BSTP) – a theatre company which is based in Strand, Lwandle township. His research field of interest lies within the margins of “community” and mainstream theatre. His MA thesis focused on ways in which black theatre artists from marginalised disadvantaged communities with and without formal training negotiate themselves within theatre spaces in Cape Town. Attempting to demonstrate how works of arts that awkwardly sit with labels such as “community” or “mainstream” theatre are emerging more and more in the Cape Town theatre scene. Sikhafungana’s research included an extended period of fieldwork with Ukwanda Puppets and Designs Art Collective. For his doctoral research, he is extending his work to a national scale, attempting to assess the state of contemporary post-apartheid theatre in South Africa.
- Dissertation: Black Theatre Makers: Rethinking South African Theatre, its Spaces and Institutions
- Supervisor: Dr Jung-Ran Forte
Dr Lauren van der Rede (English)
Dr van der Rede completed a doctoral fellowship as an early career fellow on the DSI-NRF Fellowship Programme in the CHR. She is currently appointed as a full-time lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Stellenbosch. Before joining Stellenbosch, Dr van der Rede participated in the CHR’s collaboration with Sogang University in South Korea and was granted writing fellowships with the CHR’s international partners the ICGC at the University of Minnesota and the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto. Dr van der Rede’s research in Rwanda and Ethiopia and her study of genocides and memorialisation in Poland were supported through the CHR. She was also a participant in the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes African Studies Summer Institute held at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia in 2019, alongside CHR fellows Dr Valmont Layne and Dr Kim Gurney.
- Dissertation: The Post-genocidal Condition: Ghosts of Genocide, Genocidal Violence, and Representation
- Supervisor: Dr Maurits van Bever Donker and Assoc Prof. Suren Pillay
By Iona Gilburt